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Managing the MarginsGender, Citizenship, and the International Regulation of Precarious Employment$

Leah F. Vosko

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199574810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574810.001.0001

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Forging a Gender Contract in Early National and International Labour Regulation

Forging a Gender Contract in Early National and International Labour Regulation

Chapter:
(p.26) 1 Forging a Gender Contract in Early National and International Labour Regulation
Source:
Managing the Margins
Author(s):

Leah F. Vosko (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199574810.003.0002

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the prehistory of the SER at the national and international levels, demonstrating its gendered roots. Building on scholarship in women's history illustrating how early attempts to establish minimum conditions of work at the national level centred on ‘protecting women’, it traces the emergence of a parallel emphasis in international labour legislation. The selection of initial subjects for international labour legislation was framed by contestation between and amongst trade unionists, working‐class and liberal feminists, women social reformers, and philanthropists over whether to pursue ‘equal protection’ for men and women or protection for women exclusively. The earliest international labour regulations, devised initially by the International Association for Labour Legislation and developed subsequently by the ILO, nevertheless included sex‐specific regulations on maternity and night work. By cultivating a male breadwinner/female caregiver gender contract, such regulations helped lay the foundation for the SER as a normative model of male employment.

Keywords:   citizenship, equal protection, ILO, International Association for Labour Legislation, international labour standards, male breadwinner/female caregiver contract, maternity protection, minimum wages, night work, protective labour legislation

The protection of the weak, and therefore of women as well as of children and young persons, is one of the fundamental principles underlying the movement which led to the creation of the International Labour Organization.

ILO (1921a) The International Protection of Women Workers, Studies and Reports, Series I, No.1: 1.

Feminist scholarship on the SER has long demonstrated its gendered character. This chapter aims to further this appraisal by examining developments contributing to its rise at both the national level and in the International Labour Code.

A large body of feminist scholarship has shown how the earliest attempts to establish minimum conditions of work and employment in Europe, North America, and other industrializing contexts centred on ‘protecting women’ (see especially contributions to Wikander et al., eds., 1995). In the 19th century, with the rapid growth of industrial capitalism and the enfranchisement of working‐class men, and their newly achieved civil right to contract freely with employers, national labour legislation set limitations on women's working hours and night work, prohibited women from working with dangerous substances, fixed minimum wages in female‐dominated industries, and established maternity protections. Similarly, prohibitions against women's night work in industry and the use of white phosphorous in match production were the first subjects of international labour regulation beginning in 1906 and such subjects, as well as maternity protection and lead poisoning, were also addressed at the inaugural conference of the ILO in 1919. This congruence was not accidental. Indeed, only once the contours of (p.27) the male breadwinner / female caregiver gender contract were established could the SER emerge as the normative model of employment.

At the same time, the selection of early subjects for international labour regulation was not without contestation. There were struggles over the merits and shortcomings of protective labour legislation for women between and amongst trade unionists, working‐class and liberal feminists, women social reformers, and philanthropists. Debates pivoted on whether to pursue ‘equal protection’ for men and women or protection for women exclusively. On the one hand, liberal feminists and social democrats cast protective labour legislation as discriminatory, a position tied to their pursuit of equal civil and political citizenship rights for women. On the other hand, large segments of the male trade union movements and some working‐class women viewed protective labour legislation as a pragmatic strategy in the struggle against women's subordination in free labour markets and, ultimately, against the exploitation of the working class as a whole; this diverse group often found itself in strategic alignment with national governments and their representatives at the international level. The outcome of these debates was that the patchwork of protective labour legislation in rapidly industrializing countries was gradually solidified in international labour regulations.

The ensuing discussion traces the gendered foundations of the SER as the normative model of employment in industrializing capitalist labour markets by sketching the development of select national regulations and the creation of the initial body of standards of the International Association of Labour Legislation (IALL) in 1906 and the ILO in 1919. After synthesizing scholarship by feminist historians documenting the evolution of protective legislation in various parts of Europe and North America as well as in Australia and charting debates surrounding the adoption of international labour regulations, the chapter shows how by cultivating a male breadwinner / female caregiver gender contract, early labour regulations adopted nationally as well as internationally helped lay the foundation for the SER.

Select National Developments, 1830s–1930s

The timing of the introduction of protective legislation varied nationally, yet regulations governing hours of work and night work, wages, the use of dangerous substances, and maternity shared several features. Most early laws targeted children and subsequently sought to limit the extent or alter the character of women's paid work, especially in industry, in order to (p.28) encourage them to fulfil caregiving duties as well as to inhibit competition between women and men (Kessler‐Harris et al. 1995: 4). This pattern gives credence to T. H. Marshall's (1963: 84) observation that early Factory Acts ‘meticulously refrained from giving this protection directly to the adult male…out of respect for his status as a citizen, on the grounds that enforced protective measures curtailed the civil right to conclude a free contract’. Protective legislation set limits on women's labour force participation through such measures as compulsory confinement for pregnant women and new mothers and occupational prohibitions. Protection was pursued primarily by the state and supported by humanitarian capitalists, many male trade unionists, and women social reformers. Their arguments emphasized motherly duties to protect the unborn and to fulfil domestic obligations, the ‘preservation of the nation’, and women's supposed lesser physical and moral fitness to engage in certain forms of employment and occupations. In many cases, protections did not apply to categories of work deemed acceptable for women, perceived either to be intermittent, performed in the domestic sphere, or tied to caregiving, such as household servants, agricultural workers, casual workers, family workers, and workers in small workshops, as well as waitresses and nurses (see e.g. Hutchins 1907; McCallum 1986; Fredman 1997). Furthermore, seldom discussed were issues of whether men should engage in paid work (Fredman 1997), whether men's work in certain occupations or industries endangered the unborn (Whitworth 1994), or whether men had domestic obligations.

Hours and Night Work

In Britain, where sex‐specific legislation governing hours of work was pioneered, workers' efforts to reduce their hours began with gender‐neutral calls for limits on the working day. While many such efforts, dating to the early 1800s, were ignored, the British Factory Act of 1833, responding partly to the ten‐hours movement seeking a reduction in children's hours, barred children under 9 years of age from working in textile factories and reduced the working day to 12 hours for 13–18‐year‐olds. In 1844, women were included under such legislation, which characterized them ‘to be, like children, “unfree agents” in the labour market’ (Lewis and Rose 1995: 99).

According to Lewis and Rose (1995: 92), British working men, such as those working in textile factories where everyone's work was interdependent, did not want to undermine their newly won freedom of contract, and so they supported legislation affecting women and children, presuming (p.29) that ultimately men's hours would be shortened. But, while early Factory Acts are often cited as the first formal limit on women's paid work in Britain, inattention to men's situation is equally notable (Fredman 1997). Only in the late 1800s did trade unions begin to push, once again, for a general eight‐hour day and to argue that, as one union leader (quoted by Lewis and Rose 1995: 108) put it, ‘the veil must be lifted…Women and children must no longer be made the pretext for securing a reduction of working hours for men’. Henceforth, Britain began to set limits on working hours, and factory work more generally. Still, as Fredman shows (1997: 72–3), limits to working hours were most comprehensive in industrial settings, especially in large textile factories, where the presence of wage‐earning women often threatened their male counterparts; in ‘small workplaces, home workers and family workers were protected only sporadically…Yet some of the worst abuses of sweated labour took place in these workshops.’

In Australia, some male workers gained a shorter work day through industrial action in the mid‐19th century (e.g. stonemasons won an eight‐hour day in 1856 in Sydney and Melbourne) (Buckley and Wheelwright 1988: 166 and 168). However, early government policies regulated the working hours of women and children. Victoria's Supervision of Workrooms Factories Act (1873), the first legislation of its kind in the country, resembled its British counterpart. A model for subsequent legislation in other Australian states, this Act, and later amendments, set up factory inspectors, established health and safety conditions, and limited hours of work for women and children (Howe 1995: 320). Early laws initially defined factories as establishments employing no fewer than ten people, leaving aside small establishments, and thereby neglecting the long hours associated with outwork, family work, or home‐based workshops, which did not threaten male‐breadwinning (Frances et al. 1996: 62; see also Howe 1995; 320).1

Developments in Canada also followed those in Britain in so far as workers' demands for a shorter work day were cast initially as universal, while state interventions, supported by many male workers, limited the working hours of women and children through Factory Acts. Against the backdrop of, for example, cross‐occupational alliances such as the Nine Hours Leagues of 1872, many argued that shorter working hours would allow workers to ‘become better citizens and family men with more time away from the job’ (Heron 1989: 15). Early factory laws were enacted by provincial governments, first in Ontario (1884), followed by Quebec (1885), and later Western Canada and the Maritimes. Before the introduction of these Acts, as Ursel (1992: 85) illustrates, very few laws contained clauses protecting (p.30) workers' interests and/or rights, but Ontario's Factory Act changed this by providing for health and safety regulations for all workers and restricting daily working hours to ten for women and children (Ontario 1884: chapter 39, s. 6.3; see also Guest 1985: 40). Such legislation ‘rested on the assumption that female workers needed greater protection than male workers because of their presumed physical frailty and moral vulnerability’ (Frager and Patrias 2005: 105).

Shifting to the French case, here legislators restricted hours of work in industry first for children in 1841, followed by a successful movement in 1848 to limit hours of work for all workers in large‐scale industry to 12 per day (ILO 1932: 95). Further limitations to daily hours of work in 1874 addressed children only, and made Sunday rest compulsory for girls below 21 years of age, before legislators began regulating hours of work for women of all ages. By the 1890s, French legislation was so complex that it entailed four distinct subsystems, regulating hours for children under 16 (10 hours a day), girls between 16 and 18 (60 hours a week), women over 18 (11 hours a day and 60 hours a week), and men (12 hours a day) (ILO 1932: 96). In an effort to simplify regulation in 1900, French legislators reduced the maximum hours of work for women of any age to that of children (10 hours), and a few years later, they reduced the hours of men working in the same workplaces as women and children to equivalent levels (Boxer 1986: 46–7).

France is also well‐known, though not unique, for having actively regulated women's industrial employment at night, through legislation such as the Millerand‐Colliard Law (1892), in an attempt to limit evening work, then prevalent among dressmakers as well as among workers in other luxury industries common in large urban centres (Delevingne 1934: 34). Legislators proceeded over the objections of women textile workers, large groups of whom struck to defend their piece rates against the probable loss of wages due to hours‐restrictions (Hilden 1986: 817). They also acted against the wishes of many employers concerned about the prospects of lower productivity and rates of profit and the fears of many male workers, especially in the same firms, that reducing women's hours would contribute to a reduction for them. These objections led to a series of ‘tolerances’ or exemptions that, as Stewart (1989: 121) shows, cultivated a ‘pattern of inclusion and exclusion in the ban fortif[ying] a decaying barrier in the labour market by reserving higher paying night work for men and as well as by facilitating lower paying night work for women’.

In the United States, early hours‐regulation was not limited to women and children, as it had been in most parts of Britain, Australia, and Canada. (p.31) For example, a ten‐hour day was established for federal employees in 1840, and worker‐led struggles for hours‐legislation multiplied in the mid‐1840s (Kessler‐Harris 1982: 182). Shortly thereafter, some states also responded to the problem of long working hours by enacting gender‐neutral maximum hours legislation. In one early case, in 1847, New Hampshire passed a law establishing ten hours a day as the general standard ‘in the absence of an express contract requiring greater time’ and other states followed suit (Klem et al. 1950: 49). However, where they existed in the late 19th century, according to Roediger and Foner (1989: 101; see also Kessler‐Harris 1982: 183), state laws ‘either lacked provisions for enforcement, contained loopholes, or became objects of conflicting interpretation’. This is where gendered patterns emerged as the earliest enforceable hours laws applied only to women.2

As struggles over hours of work regulations played out in the United States, so did debates over prohibiting women's work at night. The impetus for sex‐specific legislation came from high court rulings preventing across‐the‐board, and thereby gender‐neutral, limitations on maximum hours (e.g. the United States Supreme Court Ruling in Lochner v. New York of 1905). When American courts intervened to prevent states from restricting maximum hours for the sake of (male) workers' liberty, as the work of Kessler‐Harris shows, in particular, social reformers stepped up their efforts in pursuit of sex‐specific limitations. They focused on prohibiting night work for women because it was a practical means of limiting employer avoidance of maximum daily hours for women through the use of split shifts and of preventing women from holding two jobs. Social reformers, such as those connected to the National Consumers' League, used the courts' actions to ‘exaggerat[e] gender differences and plac[e] the qualities of women, not social justice for workers, in the forefront of debate’ (Kessler‐Harris 1995: 341). Their actions shaped both subsequent court rulings and legislative action. They offered the courts a rationale for allowing legislators to protect women in the national interest (i.e. to preserve maternal health), permission granted by the United States Supreme Court in a 1908 decision (Muller v. Oregon). Such pronouncements, in turn, led 12 states to adopt laws restricting women's work at night between 1908 and 1918 and enabled 42 states to uphold sex‐specific maximum hours laws existing by that time (Kessler‐Harris 1995: 355).

(p.32) Wages

Like those governing maximum working hours and night work, many early wage regulations were formulated to respond to the prevalence of sweating (i.e. exploitative working conditions) among women, although concerns about male breadwinners' wages often lay behind these interventions.

The Australian state of Victoria, where women comprised about half of the workforce in the late 19th century, offers a window into the nature of early minimum wage‐setting. While the setting of a minimum wage was by no means unique to Victoria, its Factories and Shops Act of 1896 was early in instituting enforceable minimum wages and overtime rates for Australian women and men in sweated trades. Such measures took effect through the creation of wages boards with enforcement powers, appointed to set wages and piece rates for factory workers and outworkers in six named trades (Hutchins 1906; Howe 1995: 322). The boards were introduced by parliamentarians to ‘protect women and children “who cannot help themselves,” compared to men who are “able to organize and unite” ’ (Rickard, quoted in Howe 1995: 321). Yet the 1896 legislation also applied to men in the named trades because of a successful Labor Party amendment.

As Howe (1995) illustrates, these early forays into wage regulation cultivated a series of gendered ironies. Minimum wage‐setting had a positive impact on women employed in clothing and textile industries, whose wages rose. However, the actions of boards did little to limit wage differentials between men and women as they typically set women's wage rates at least 50% below men's. This early wage‐gap was justified by women's and men's presumed different needs and requirements for subsistence tied to growing efforts to normalize a ‘family wage’. The boards' prescriptions took seriously the concern that ‘factory employment should not be attractive enough to entice married women away from the home’, expressed by a Royal Commission on Female and Juvenile Labour in Factories and Shops in the state of New South Wales (1911–12) (quoted in Howe 1995: 328). Although women in industries regulated by the wage boards did better than those in industries outside their purview, these women's wage rates hovered around subsistence levels, defined in accordance with increasingly prevalent norms of female caregiving.3 Boards also helped preserve sex segregation in trades such as clothing, where cutting and pressing were the dominion of men (Lee 1987).

At the end of the 1800s and in the early 1900s, low pay was also a characteristic feature of women's paid work in Britain, where the sex‐segregated (p.33) nature of the evolving labour market facilitated this situation. Initially, rationales casting women as naturally less efficient than men and having lower subsistence needs worked to delay state intervention into pay levels. However, in the early 1900s, Britain began to regulate minimum wages in response to sweating, moral fears about prostitution, eugenicist fears over the health of the English race, and suggestions that low‐priced labour could hinder economic progress (Lewis 1984: 200–1; Fredman 1997: 75). Here, too, the strategy involved introducing minimum wages in trades that were predominantly female, where sweating was common (Lewis and Rose 1995: 94). Consequently, in 1909, Britain passed the first Trades Boards Act, which created wage‐setting machinery for application in such trades as tailoring, paper and cardboard box‐making, chain‐making, and lace mending and finishing (ibid. 114).4

Even with the introduction of trade boards (first called wage councils) in Britain, Lewis (1986b: 10) shows that the average wage of women in regulated industries hovered around subsistence levels in this period, and that the regulations of the boards applied to just one‐sixth of all women workers, excluding casuals. While trade boards increased women's wages in the trades covered, as Fredman (1997: 77) shows, they reinforced the assumption that low wages were intrinsic to women's work by permitting sex‐based differentials, even in cases where men and women were performing the same work. The boards' approach to wage regulation reinforced inequality between women and men, improving women's wages while simultaneously upholding their broader dependence on men and hence their responsibility for caregiving.

In the United States, the earliest minimum wage legislation covered only women and children (Waltman 2000: 28–9). Some scholars contend that American laws were weak since efforts to enforce them tended to weigh the health of women workers against the health of industry in general and employers' capacity to pay adequate wages (Levin‐Waldman 2001: 54). Nevertheless, 15 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico enacted minimum wage legislation for women between 1912 and 1923, and wage minima were set by boards for certain occupations within industries (Mutari and Figart 2004: 29). As with legislation on maximum hours and night work legislation, the American courts played a central role in defining the gendered character of early minimum wage legislation, especially the Supreme Court Ruling of 1908 finding that preserving women's reproductive capacities took precedence over their freedom of contract. Yet, by 1923, the Supreme Court, in Adkins v. Children's Hospital, had voided federal minimum wage legislation on the grounds that it dangerously extended (p.34) the police power of the state, a decision that made remaining state minimum wage laws effectively unenforceable (Waltman 2000: 29–30; Mutari and Figart 2004: 30).

As Frances et al. (1996) illustrate, the absence of significant state intervention in the area of wage regulations stands out most in Canada. Women's organizations, such as the National Council of Women of Canada, vocalized concerns about women's low wages as early as the 1890s, but Canada and the provinces did not intervene for some years (Guest 1985: 73; McCallum 1986: 31, 33). In 1900, the federal government made a modest attempt at wage regulation by issuing a policy to ‘ensure the payment of “fair wages” to persons employed on all public works and Government contracts’, although there was a sharp distinction between this type of policy and minimum wage legislation, which emerged later and targeted women and girls (Lorentsen and Woolner 1950: 104).

Canadian provincial legislation covering minimum wages only emerged in the late 1910s. By the early 1920s, most provinces had legislation ‘providing for a three‐ or five‐person minimum wage board to set wage rates for female wage‐earners on an industry‐by‐industry basis after consultation with representative employers and employees’ and provided for the typical exclusions (e.g. domestics, farm workers) (McCallum 1986: 31); furthermore, as Frager and Patrias (2005: 107–8) emphasize, ‘employers wishing to observe the letter of the law could rely on an ever‐changing workforce of “learners” and on part‐time workers who could be paid less than the standard minimum’.

Dangerous Substances and Occupations

Among the various forms of protective legislation taking shape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those centring on dangerous substances and occupations were forged most tightly around assumptions about biological difference, and especially the sanctity of motherhood. In Britain, as well as in Canada, the United States, and France, there was considerable consensus among legislators and social reformers in support of sex‐specific regulations in this area. Underground work and the manufacture of pottery and white lead were believed to endanger women's reproductive health and certain types of work (e.g. mining) were perceived to limit their ability to fulfil their domestic responsibilities (see for example Humphries 1981: 16–20; Kessler‐Harris 1982: 185; Lewis and Rose 1995: 98).

Beginning with prohibiting women from working underground in the Mines and Collieries Act (1842), Britain adopted some of the earliest (p.35) protective measures governing work involving dangerous substances and occupations. As Lewis and Rose show (1995), speeches by British parliamentarians favouring the adoption of this Act focused on the harmful effects of underground work on pregnancy and the consequences of dirty and dangerous work for the family, including the immoral behaviour that underground work among ‘disorderly’ women supposedly encouraged. Indeed, ‘the sensationalism of the issue of immorality silenced those who were concerned with the principles of political economy and the state regulation of industry’ (ibid. 98). Consequently, prohibition was the standard response in Britain. France also prohibited women and children from underground work, beginning in 1874 (Hutchins 1907: 2). In the United States, many states also limited women's work underground, although, as Kessler‐Harris (1982: 185) suggests, such action had little more than symbolic power since work in underground mines was never prevalent: restrictions, rather, reinforced political discourses asserting women's weakness as well as justified prohibiting altogether, the work of women in certain occupations'.

Sex‐specific prohibitions also extended to other areas. In Britain, for example, the Factory and Workshop Act (1891) was amended in 1895 to empower the British home secretary to prohibit women and children from particular trades or occupations (Malone 1998: 178). Initially, the government exercised these powers in the white lead and pottery trades, effectively banning women from working in the most dangerous (and high‐paying) jobs in these trades. The effects of toxic substances on men's reproductive capacities were not addressed: as Malone (1998: 187) reports in her study of gendered discourses on danger and protective legislation in Britain in the late 1800s, scientific theories of biological differences between men and women ‘infused with prejudices of their creators’ assisted employers in replacing women with men in dangerous trades while substantiating the ‘prevalent separate‐spheres ideology’.

Legislation enacted in the 1880s in France also forbade women and children from working in almost all dangerous processes in various lead trades, permitting special rules for specific trades. But the use of certain substances (e.g. white phosphorous) was forbidden in all industrial processes by 1898 and, by 1907, legislators had passed a general law requiring precautionary measures in all unhealthy industries (Hutchins 1907: 6). These measures were gender‐neutral, suggestive of the different assumptions about women's roles in labour markets in continental Europe than in the United States or Britain. Jenson (1989) observes that, together with the emphasis on women's civil rights, the form of protective legislation (p.36) reflected both the premise that women would always engage in employment and the centrality of the family to the future of the French Republic, whereas, in the United States, the notion, hegemonic at that time, was that women were either mothers or workers. In contrast, in Britain, the idea was ‘that the “working woman” and later the “working mother” were contradictory terms’ (Lewis and Rose 1995). These distinct conceptions of women's social roles also shaped early protective legislation linked to maternity.

Maternity Protection

In the early 20th century, some governments sought to restrict women's labour force participation after and, in some instances, before the birth of their children. Others attempted to confine their labour force participation to certain spheres, occupations, and categories of employment.

The British approach to maternity regulation was typical of the first group. Under the Factory and Workshop Act (1891), it barred women from returning to work for four weeks after childbirth and in the subsequent Act in that name (Factory and Workshop Act 1901), it enacted provisions punishing employers for knowingly employing a woman within four weeks of the birth of her child.5 The United States also used maternity protection to deter mothers' labour force participation by leaving unprotected women's jobs during such necessary absences. Instead of state‐supported maternity leave, American states, backed by social reformers, combined restrictions on the employment of pregnant women and new mothers with strategies for limiting infant mortality, including the provision of pure or sterilized milk through municipal milk stations operating during daily working hours only (Jenson 1989: 244). Consequently, although maternity protections were ultimately introduced in some states, such as in New York in 1919, when the American Association for Labor Legislation called in 1916 for a federal maternity benefit akin to those available in Nordic countries, the proposal failed; as Kessler‐Harris et al. (1995: 12) demonstrate, ‘convinced that women should simply quit work when they married or became pregnant, reformers who led the campaign to restrict women's work paid no attention at all to maternity leave. The resulting hardships for wage‐earning women strengthened arguments for a family wage for male breadwinners.’

Among the second group, which included several countries with relatively weak women's movements, some provided leave benefits as part of a package of maternity protection.6 This is true of Germany, the first state (p.37) to extend public compensation to mothers for lost earnings during mandatory maternity leaves in 1883, which did so as part of health insurance because many women were evading prohibitions in order to subsist (Berkovitch 1999: 48, 135). France took a somewhat different approach, viewing maternity protection as both an aid to women's continued labour force participation and a means of securing the growth of the population. Confronted with high rates of infant mortality and declining fertility rates, and concerned with depopulation, in 1913 it introduced prenatal and compulsory postnatal leave for women working in industrial and commercial establishments (Jenson 1989: 241; Koven and Michel 1990: 1088; see also Klaus 1993; Pedersen 1993). France also passed legislation guaranteeing a daily maternity allowance to make up for lost wages during the eight weeks before and after childbirth, and provided for a nursing bonus (McDougall 1983; see also Koven and Michel 1990: 1105). To ensure that women could fulfil their maternal roles upon return to the labour force, women effectively lobbied for nursing rooms in factories and daycares in local communities. The French state, building on a consensus between workers' organizations, nationalists, and social Catholics, as well as early feminists, adopted this package of maternity protections to provide greater space for family life in French society. The goal was to reinforce what Jenson (1989: 250) characterizes as the identity of the ‘citizen‐producer’ through building a society on the basis of solidarism, in which the family is the basic unit.7

By the time that international labour regulations began to take shape in the early 1900s, protective labour legislation in Europe and North America had established the basis for the emerging male breadwinner / female caregiver gender contract. National measures varied, but legislation on hours of work and night work, wages, and dangerous substances and occupations, while excluding categories of work deemed acceptable for women, were largely rationalized on the basis of women's supposed weakness and their role in reproducing and maintaining the population, the need to establish an industrial worker norm among men, and, along with maternity protections, the desire to normalize the nuclear family household. International labour regulations followed a similar course.

International Developments, 1870s–1919

The establishment of international labour regulation was driven initially by concerns to limit unfair competition between countries. As early as the (p.38) mid‐19th century, prominent figures such as Robert Owen and Daniel Le Grand argued that certain humanitarian requirements, such as safe working conditions, should be removed from the sphere of international competition (ILO 1921a: 1, 2001: 23). By 1906, when the first international labour conventions and recommendations were adopted, there was a formal recognition on the part of legislators in many industrializing countries that competition in industry between different countries represented anobstacle in the development of national legislation (Mahaim 1934: 4). On the basis of these acknowledgements, national governments worked with representatives of trade unions and employers' associations to pursue international labour regulations, and an early focus was ‘the protection of the weak’, and thereby women and children. The decision to focus first on protecting women and children met with resistance from some quarters, especially from feminists calling for ‘equal protection’ as a means of advancing women's civil and political rights. Yet in the early stages of their development, philosophical and strategic disagreements over whether to focus energy on suffrage or the rejection of sex‐specific protective legislation between and amongst working‐class and liberal feminists, as well as women involved in socialist and social democratic movements who did not identify with feminism, hindered coordinated action.

Consensus and Contestation around Protecting Women, 1878–19138

The early stages in the evolution of international labour regulation were characterized by sharp divisions over protective measures and to whom they should apply, evident especially in the meetings of socialist and women's congresses, both broad women's congresses and meetings of socialist and social democratic women. In 1878, for example, the first general international women's congress was held in Paris and a central issue—over which there was no agreement—was whether to support prohibiting women from working at night. In the ten women's congresses held across Europe and the United States before 1900, women remained divided. Some self‐proclaimed ‘feminists’ opposed protective measures, including many French women who argued against them from the standpoint of equal rights and liberty, whereas a diverse group of women, including middle‐class women social reformers and working‐class women, supported such measures as prohibitions on night work (Wikander 1992: 12–13; see also Hilden 1986). The divisions were exacerbated by the 1888 formation of the International Council of Women, whose initial radical and internationalist goals were (p.39) quelled by the broad coalition of women's groups that attended its first meeting in Washington (Wikander 1992: 16, 1995: 46; Rupp 1997; see also Anderson and Winslow 1951).9

Protective legislation was also high on the agenda of the male‐dominated socialist congresses. Indeed, the Socialist International Labour Congress held in Paris in 1889—the inaugural meeting of the Second International—passed a resolution on general labour legislation, which highlighted the importance of the eight‐hour day for all workers. Yet consistent with a resolution opposing the employment of women at night passed at the first Socialist International two decades earlier (ILO 2001: 24), two other resolutions addressed women exclusively: one focused on prohibiting women from industrial jobs that could damage female organs and the other on prohibiting women and children from working at night. Although both resolutions passed, there were dissenting voices, such as Clara Zetkin, who famously objected to limits on women's paid employment by arguing that ‘if we wish women to be free human beings, to have the same rights as men in our society, women's work must be neither abolished nor limited except in certain quite isolated cases’ (Zetkin, as cited by Bell and Offen, eds., 1983: 87; see also Wikander 1995: 34; see also DuBois 1998: 261; Bryson 2003: 108–10 and 111–12).

The first international congress on general protective legislation convened by German Emperor Wilhelm II in Berlin in 1890, which would eventually become the IALL, itself the precursor to the ILO, aimed to induce cooperation between countries on competition and trade. According to Mahaim (1934: 16), ‘the ultimate purpose of international labor legislation would, of course, be achieved if all national legislation became identical. This, however, [was] not a practical possibility…’. Thus the aim was ‘not absolute equality [i.e. identical legislation] but rather equivalence’. The ‘social question’ was another common concern, as delegates debated a day's rest for all, as well as reductions in working hours for women and children (Wikander 1992: 20–1). Although this congress failed to produce any binding measures, delegates recommended that women not be allowed to work at night or on Sundays, that their workday not exceed 11 hours, that they receive daily breaks, and that they be prohibited from work for four weeks after giving birth (Wikander 1995: 35–6; ILO 2001: 24). In this way, by 1890, the contours of the gender contract were beginning to take shape at the international level.

In the ensuing years, several general women's congresses met in Europe, and delegates to one in 1892, the Congrès Général des Sociétés Féministes, demanded a night work prohibition for all workers, as well as suffrage (p.40) for women, partly in response to France's initial ban on night work for women that year; the resolutions of a subsequent congress of the same group in 1896 similarly called for no restrictions for women that did not also apply to men, an eight‐hour day for all, and equal pay for equal work. Moreover, deliberations at another women's congress held in Brussels a year later took a similar position to the French Congress (Wikander 1995: 44–5).

In this period, however, some male trade unionists expressed hostility towards the ‘bourgeois feminists (or “women's righters” as they were [also] often called)’ (Bryson 2003: 108, 109), and, at the third congress of the Second International in 1893, women's equality was debated, and key actors shifted their views (Wikander 1995: 36). For instance, in the interest of making the institution of the family more central in workers' collective struggles, Clara Zetkin had changed her position to support protective legislation for women, noting that:

it is out of the question that the task of socialist women's activity should be to alienate proletarian women from their duties as wives and mothers…the better relations are in the family and the more efficiently work is done in the home, so much the more effective is the family in the struggle. (Zetkin, as cited by Draper and Lipow 1976: 199–200; see also Honeycutt 1976: 136; Bryson 2003: 111–12)

According to Wikander (1995: 36–7), Zetkin followed Louise Kautsky, of Austria, who presented a resolution to the congress calling for special protection for women. The resolution—for an eight‐hour day, prohibition of night work, and prohibition from paid work two weeks before and four weeks after childbirth—generated considerable discord, and a number of women opposed it on the grounds of women's equality. Consequently, delegates successfully proposed adding a clause on equal pay to temper the effects of the resolution. For Wikander (1995: 37), henceforth the ‘combination of special protection for women plus the demand for equal pay was to become the standard position of the Second International on these issues’ (see also Cole 1963). And it would have a broader influence too.

After the 1890s, a decade in which attention to equal protection diminished in many women's congresses, marking a new more official phase in the evolution of international labour regulation, there were further victories for proponents of protective measures. Between around 1900 and 1913, according to Wikander (1992: 13), a split persisted between European socialist feminists, who opposed protective legislation, and North American liberal feminists, some of whom favoured it and many of whom preferred to devote their energy to women's suffrage, although this (p.41) split was not always clear cut since some older American women allied themselves with the feminist stance and some European women, especially German women, sided with the North Americans. Nevertheless, in the United States, many women argued that social and labour protections could bolster the case for women's suffrage (Spruill‐Wheeler 1995). Although efforts to establish suffrage for women began in the 19th century, in most countries the first international labour legislation emerged before formal political rights were extended to women, with a few notable exceptions such as New Zealand and Australia, which granted women the vote in 1893 and 1902, respectively.

At the first official congress of the IALL in 1901 after its founding in Paris in 1900, delegates discussed the regulation of night work for women and the regulation of industries injurious to (especially women) workers' health. They instructed the International Labour Office to undertake further study and formed a committee to draw up proposals justifying regulations on such topics. This set the stage for two successive congresses of the IALL in Berne (ILO 1921a; see also League of Nations 1919c): the first, in 1905, was a technical meeting at which delegates discussed the potential function of an international labour convention and decided that it would have to be ratified by national parliaments and converted into national law in order to become legally binding. Around the same time, countries began to negotiate bilateral treaties related to workers' protection.10 The second, in 1906, inaugurated the age of international labour regulation, as participants adopted the first two international labour conventions—one convention prohibited the use of white phosphorous in the match production industry and the other prohibited women's night work in industry (see Appendix A).

Oft labelled the ‘first article of the International Labour Code’ (ILO 2001: 27), and known simply as the Berne Convention, the convention on night work resembled national measures in many respects. It only covered employed women in industry, prohibiting them from working between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. It did not extend to women working in small workshops, homes, agriculture, or commerce. Nor did it cover industrial undertakings in which only family members were employed, suggesting that the family had independent protective interests and capacities akin to the state. However, the convention did cover mines and quarries, and manufacturing industries, important domains of employment for men. Later in 1906, the IALL adopted a resolution limiting women's workday to ten hours, choosing this softer form of standard‐setting to accommodate the patchwork of national measures emerging around that time.

(p.42) After several years of relative inactivity on questions surrounding the regulation of women's work for pay, given the growing focus on suffrage, debates at various congresses were renewed; for example, in 1910, at the second women's ‘shadow international’ in Copenhagen (the pre‐congress responsible for establishing 8 March as International Women's Day) (Kaplan 1985), a group of women from Scandinavia argued against special legislation and for equal protection for all workers in opposition to their German‐led socialist sisters (Wikander 1995: 52). However, the hiatus ended in 1911, when a new general women's organization—International Correspondence—formed briefly with the specific aim of rejecting labour legislation for women only (Wikander 1992: 31). Its central goal of annulling the Berne Convention's prohibition on night work for women galvanized feminists who were against protective legislation, and, according to Wikander (1995: 53–4), its efforts contributed to participants' double demand for equal pay and protection, at a general women's congress in Paris in 1913, held under the auspices of the conservative International Council of Women.

Despite such developments, the IALL largely continued to support sex‐specific protective measures. Indeed, in 1913, the IALL proceeded along its previous course as delegates adopted the principle of a ten‐hour day for women; there was some debate about setting a fixed standard on the grounds that maximum hours varied nationally, but the compromise reached ‘allowed considerable latitude in the methods of its application’ (ILO 1921a: 3–4). Notable at its 1913 forum, however, was the vocal opposition of a Norwegian delegate who, emphasizing the importance of protective labour legislation for all workers, objected to both measures on the basis of a ‘strong trend of opinion in opposition to all special protection for women…[and] demanded equal legislation for men and women workers’ (ILO 1921a: 4). Although feminist historians have shown that such principles were expressed at earlier meetings, from the subsequent official perspective of the ILO, formed just eight years later:

This was the first appearance of this essentially feminist principle in an international labour conference. Up till that time the desirability of special protection for the weaker members of the working community had never been questioned. Since that time there has always been one section of opinion which lays particular stress on the equal competition of men and women, and which does not wish to destroy this equality by placing women in an inferior economic position…(ILO 1921a: 4, emphasis added)

(p.43) The Consolidation of Female Caregiving and the Birth of the ILO, 1919

With the end of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, discussion of international labour regulation accelerated. The Labour Charter of 1919 (Part XIII) entrenched seven core principles: the right of association, payment of adequate wages to maintain a reasonable standard of living, equal pay for equal work, an eight‐hour day or 48‐hour week, a weekly rest of at least 24 hours, the abolition of child labour, equitable economic treatment of all workers in a country, an inspection system to ensure the enforcement of laws and worker protections, and the principle that ‘labour should not be regarded as a merely a commodity or article of commerce’ (League of Nations 1919b: Art. 427; ILO 1921a: 4; Lee 1997; Vosko 2000). These principles framed the subsequent creation of international labour regulations by the Commission on International Labour Legislation, established in Paris in March 1919, which gave birth to the ILO.

Replacing the IALL, the ILO was to be a tripartite body involving representatives of workers, employers, and governments with the power to adopt conventions (and make recommendations) at its annual international labour conference, which would then be submitted to member states for ratification. From its inception, the ILO's emphasis (and voting) was weighted towards governments, with two government representatives per country, and one representative each for workers and employers per country. The structure of the ILO was accepted by governments both because of this weighting and because the compromise formula for adopting conventions meant that member states were not to be bound by standards; rather, the International Labour Code would gain legitimacy through norm‐setting. The creation of the ILO was not without contestation, however, as the United States opposed the inclusion of the word ‘class’ in its mandate. The draft mandate indicated that the League of Nations aimed to establish universal peace and stated that ‘such a peace can be established only if it is based upon the prosperity and contentment of all classes in all nations’. To address American opposition, the last clause was replaced with ‘lasting peace through social justice’, representing a compromise that would shape fundamentally the politics of the ILO (Alcock 1971: 27, emphasis added; see also Morse 1969: 9). In forming the ILO, member countries thus aimed to foster mechanisms through which trade unions could participate in making social reforms within the confines of capitalism rather than outside of them (Cox 1977).

The movement toward the adoption of international labour standards began with deliberations at the Paris Conference itself, prior to the (p.44) formation of the ILO, when the Commission on International Labour Legislation that prepared the labour clauses heard from, among others, women's organizations, beginning with a general delegation of women's associations. The delegation was led by Gabrielle Duchêne of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, a leading feminist, pacifist, and anti‐fascist (Carle 2004). After asserting that ‘special legislation concerning women only serves, most often, to limit their scope of work and to exclude them from certain industries, while leaving them free nevertheless to engage in work which is not prohibited but which is prejudicial to their health’, Duchêne called for establishing all protective labour legislation ‘on a basis of absolute equality for all adult workers without distinction of sex’, along with changes to work processes, to make them safer, instead of prohibitions on women participating in them; she also argued that women prohibited from working while pregnant or nursing should be provided ‘a living compensatory indemnity in view of the forfeited salary’ (ILO 1921a: 4, 5).

Taking a position distinct from Duchêne's, in a memorandum submitted on behalf of the International Council of Women, Avril de Ste Croix (ILO 1921a: 5, 6) wrote against ‘the continuance of inequality of treatment between the workers of the two sexes’ and in favour of equal pay for equal work, but also argued that night work among women ‘is injurious and detrimental to family life’, asserting that ‘whenever it may be possible without creating a situation unfavourable to women, night work should be suppressed’. Ste Croix additionally called for exceptional measures in the case of maternity and supported the establishment of women's labour commissions. The Allied Women's Suffragists, represented by Mrs Brunschevig, concurred on the latter proposal. Taking a middle ground, they argued that women should ‘not be employed in work known to be really dangerous for them in the event of maternity’; still, they stressed the importance of changing women's conditions of work and called for a state‐provided allowance during the six weeks before and after childbirth ‘for every woman, whether a wage‐earner or not’ in the name of women's economic independence (ILO 1921a: 6–7). This support for women's economic independence, as well as equal wages, was reinforced by the representation of another woman speaking on behalf of the organization, a Miss van den Plas (ILO 1921a: 6), who requested that the question of ‘half‐time work for married women’ be added to the agenda of the initial International Labour Conference on the basis that ‘under such an arrangement a married woman would be able to work without abandoning her household and her children, and without, on (p.45) the other hand, being subjected to the low wages which were given to her on the pretext that she only needed a nominal wage’.

Such groups influenced the drafting of Part XIII of the Peace Treaty, particularly its emphasis on the protection of children and young persons; the inclusion of the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value; and the call for labour inspection. However, the demand for equal protection was largely ignored by the Commission on International Labour Legislation, which chose instead to place women's employment during the night and dangerous work and dangerous work processes on the agenda of the first international labour conference in Washington in 1919, along with women's employment before and after childbirth (ILO 1921a: 7).

This inaugural conference of the ILO took place in parallel to an International Congress of Working Women, where delegates came together to protest the underrepresentation of women in the forming of the ILO, to develop a platform for women to be heard, and to debate strategy (ILO 1921a: 7; Lubin and Winslow 1990: 28–31; see also Anderson and Winslow 1951). Delegates to the International Congress of Working Women agreed on the need to improve representation among women. They also adopted a number of recommendations on the maternity question, including that no woman should be employed for six weeks before or after childbirth; that every woman, whether wage‐earning or ‘the wife of a wage‐earner’, should be entitled to free medical care and a monetary allowance ‘adequate for the full and healthy maintenance of mother and child’ during maternity; that each country should create government commissions to study ideal methods of maternity and infant care; and, that the Labour Office of the League of Nations establish a bureau addressing maternity and infant care (ILO 1921a: 7–8). Yet the resolution advanced by a minority of participants for an indemnity for mothers based on the living wage in a given district was rejected. They also called for the maintenance of the Berne Convention, while ‘urg[ing] that night work for men…be prohibited as far as possible’ (ILO 1921a: 8). These outcomes amounted to tepid support for equal protection, qualified by special maternity protections.

At the meeting of the ILO itself, prohibiting night work for women in industry and extending maternity protections was also subject to some debate. Prior to the meeting, a preparatory report by the Organizing Committee for the International Labour Conference (League of Nations 1919c: 16) on the Employment of Women and Children and the Berne Conventions of 1906 recommended that the Berne provisions on night work simply be extended, but during the proceedings of the Commission (p.46) on the Employment of Women at the Washington conference, some delegates spoke in favour of further restricting night work among women, called for longer periods of night‐time rest, and raised concerns about the potentially abusive use of shift work to eliminate rest periods. In contrast, others, such as a delegate from Norway, opposed special protective laws for women, arguing that the goal should be to work towards the prohibition of absolutely all unnecessary night work (ILO 1919j: 103). Familiar tensions among women over whether to support sex‐specific measures or protective legislation for all workers persisted in this forum. The conference followed the recommendation of the official organizing committee's preparatory report, but opted to supplement the Berne Convention with a distinct ILO Convention on Night Work (Women) (1919). The key differences between this ILO convention and its IALL precursor were that it applied to all industrial undertakings (rather than those where a minimum number were employed) and defined the term ‘industry’ more broadly, enabling signatories to delineate the division between industry, commerce, and agriculture (ILO 1919a: Arts. 1.1 and 1.2). There were similarities as well, including the familiar exception for women employed in undertakings where only members of the same family are employed (ILO 1919a: Art. 3). The presence of family members was, once again, presumed to accord women equivalent protection to the private sphere during the night.

The Commission on the Employment of Women also proposed that the conference endorse the protection of women after childbirth for a period of four weeks, in contrast to the resolution adopted by the International Congress of Working Women, which called for limiting women's labour force participation six weeks preceding and six weeks following birth. This commission ‘did not feel impelled completely to prohibit the employment of women during the period preceding childbirth, but only to authorize pregnant women to stop work upon the production of a medical certificate’ (ILO 1921a: 9). It also proposed free medical treatment and a benefit sufficient for the maintenance of the mother and the child under healthy conditions. The outcome was the adoption of an ILO Convention on Maternity (1919) that built on the Berne Convention by protecting women from terms and conditions of work interfering with their capacity to bear children and fulfil their domestic responsibilities. As an ILO report on Women's Work under Labour Law: A Survey of Protective Legislation (1932: 18, emphasis added) later confirmed: (p.47)

It is clear that the aim of most of the legislative measures concerning the employment of women will be maternity protection. Their purpose is to maintain intact the vitality of the woman worker so as to enable her to fulfil this function normally, and to help her carry out the tasks resulting from maternity in succeeding years, such as the care of her children, their education, etc. By strictly limiting the hours of work for women, by sparing them night work, which is so exhausting and trying, and by preventing their physical organs from being deformed by carrying too heavy weights or poisoned by dangerous substances, the legislator is really endeavouring to preserve the maternal function and to ensure the well‐being of future generations.

The Convention on Maternity (1919) made exclusion from the labour force compulsory for women for six weeks following childbirth whether they were employed in public or private industrial or commercial undertakings, with the exception of family‐run businesses, during which period they were to ‘be paid benefits sufficient for the full and healthy maintenance of herself and her child’ (ILO 1919b: Art. 3). These terms contrasted with the social wage entitlements beginning to be attached to the emergent normative model of employment, and identified subsequently with social citizenship, which were to be sufficient to cover a ‘man and his family’. As envisioned by delegates to the first conference of the ILO, maternity benefits were not designed to encourage women's labour force participation, yet women were to gain access to these benefits on this basis. Absent were provisions preserving the job a woman held prior to the period of compulsory leave; the primary gestures towards labour force reintegration were protections against dismissal during maternity leave or due to illness after giving birth and provision for nursing mothers to have ‘half an hour twice a day during her working hours for this purpose’ (ILO 1919b: Art. 3d).

Alongside the adoption of these two sex‐specific conventions, the international labour conference also devised several recommendations on ‘unhealthy industries’. Delegates agreed, for example, to a Recommendation on Lead Poisoning (Women and Children) (1919) that called for excluding women and young persons under the age of 18 from various processes involving lead, on the basis that it involves dangers ‘to the function of maternity and to the physical development of children’ (ILO 1919c: Art.1). They chose a recommendation rather than a convention, due to the lack of adequate medical statistics on the relative susceptibility of women and men in the majority of industries involving the use of lead (ILO 1921a). However, the calls of women advocating for the elimination of hazardous working processes in industry for all workers may have had some effect on the form of the instrument as delegates endorsed a (p.48) gender‐neutral recommendation on the Prohibition of the Use of White Phosphorus in the Manufacture of Matches (1919).

Preparing the Ground for the SER

The earliest international labour standards also included two conventions central to establishing the pillars of the SER—on hours of work in industry and unemployment—that are analysed in Chapter 2. The era beginning in 1919 is thus characterized typically as one in which proponents of international labour regulation moved to extend protection to all workers and to provide equal protection for adult men and women (Alcock 1971). Accordingly, casting attention to this perceived shift, on the eve of the 1921 International Labour Conference, the International Labour Office reported that:

the principal importance of the Conference which is about to be held lies…not in the special measures that it may adopt for the protection of women workers, so much as in the proposal to put men and women on a footing of almost complete equality in all protective measures contemplated. It is in this direction that women desire to see the development of protection for women workers. They no longer ask for privileges—they demand absolute equality. (ILO 1921a: 11)

There are, however, other possible interpretations of the nature of the package of international labour regulations that grew up immediately following the creation of the ILO, against a backdrop of national and international measures by then well‐established. As Chapter 2 will argue, they could also be identified with the birth of a package of international labour regulations installing the SER as a normative model of employment geared to adult male citizens, and preparing the ground for ongoing exclusions on the basis of gender and citizenship status.

Notes

(1) The Australian Factory and Shops Acts of 1885 and 1896 tried to limit the exclusion of small workshops by altering the definition of a factory first from a minimum of ten people to a minimum of six and subsequently a minimum of four, although this did not address problems associated with outwork, family work, and home‐based workshops (Hutchins 1906: 2; see also Frances et al. 1996: 62).

(p.49)

(2) According to Klem et al. (1950: 51), the first enforceable law was enacted in Massachusetts in 1874 (and strengthened in 1879 by deleting a wilful violation requirement). It set limits on working hours for women at 10 per day and 60 over the week, without the nullifying clause exempting those under contract.

(3) As Hutchins (1906: 5) suggests, this situation stood in stark contrast to employers' key ‘causes of complaint’ surrounding the introduction of wage boards: the possibility that they would ‘fix “fancy” wages on an unpractical basis’. To pre‐empt such concerns, boards erred in the opposite direction: an amendment to the Act in 1903 required that the Board ascertain ‘average wage rates paid by reputable employers to employees of average capacity, and that the lowest rates fixed by the determination shall in no case exceed the average rates so ascertained’, unless the Board viewed the average wage to be ‘unreasonably low’.

(4) This Act, too, was constructed to limit the degree of state intervention—the scheme applied only where women's wages in a particular trade were extremely low relative to other wages (hence its limit to four industries) (Fredman 1997: 76).

(5) From 1891 until 1911, Britain prohibited postnatal employment and according to Koven and Michel (1990: 1105), only in 1911, under the National Insurance Act, were ‘the wives of insured workers and women finally granted a lump sum payment, usually 30 shillings at confinement, to address this hardship. Initially, the benefit was paid to the husband, but after strenuous lobbying by groups including the largely working‐class Women's Cooperative Guild, mothers gained direct control over these funds’. Costs of the maternity benefit were shared by workers, employers, and the state, and it was available to workers earning less than £160 a year.

(6) In this way, Koven and Michel's (1990) assessment of the inverse relationship between the power of women's social action movements and the range and generosity of state welfare benefits for women and children in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France complements other research on protective legislation by women's labour historians. Particularly complementary are their claims that, on the one hand, ‘the United States, with the most politically powerful and broadly based female reform movements and the weakest state, yielded the least extensive and least generous maternal and child welfare benefits to women’ (and that a similar but weaker pattern prevailed in Britain), while, on the other hand, ‘Germany, with the strongest state,’ yet ‘politically ineffective women's movements offered the most comprehensive programs for women and children’ (1080).

(7) Jenson (1989: 257) argues that French feminists did not pursue suffrage with the same vigour as their American counterparts. The vote was a tool for reform in the United States, ‘whereas in France the left feared female suffrage as a buttress for the church while Solidarists saw it as unnecessary in a society of families whose male head could represent the whole’.

(8) With the primary exception of work by Anderson and Winslow (1951), Lubin and Winslow (1990), Wikander (1992, 1995), Whitworth (1994), Rupp (1997), (p.50) and Bryson (2003), there is a dearth of scholarship documenting international debates pertinent to protective legislation in women's congresses and related forums during the period covered in this subsection. The discussion is therefore influenced greatly by the insights of these scholars, especially Wikander's two investigations (published in English), both the chronology of events they present and their description of debates taking place at different congresses.

(9) According to Rupp (1997: 20), the International Council of Women became a United States‐sponsored organization that primarily included representatives from North America and Western Europe and espoused conservative and Eurocentric views. Led by Lady Aberdeen of Scotland for 40 years, the Council characterized women's ‘first mission’ as ‘her home’.

(10) Indeed, that same year, France and Italy negotiated a workers' protection treaty.

Notes:

(1) The Australian Factory and Shops Acts of 1885 and 1896 tried to limit the exclusion of small workshops by altering the definition of a factory first from a minimum of ten people to a minimum of six and subsequently a minimum of four, although this did not address problems associated with outwork, family work, and home‐based workshops (Hutchins 1906: 2; see also Frances et al. 1996: 62).

(2) According to Klem et al. (1950: 51), the first enforceable law was enacted in Massachusetts in 1874 (and strengthened in 1879 by deleting a wilful violation requirement). It set limits on working hours for women at 10 per day and 60 over the week, without the nullifying clause exempting those under contract.

(3) As Hutchins (1906: 5) suggests, this situation stood in stark contrast to employers' key ‘causes of complaint’ surrounding the introduction of wage boards: the possibility that they would ‘fix “fancy” wages on an unpractical basis’. To pre‐empt such concerns, boards erred in the opposite direction: an amendment to the Act in 1903 required that the Board ascertain ‘average wage rates paid by reputable employers to employees of average capacity, and that the lowest rates fixed by the determination shall in no case exceed the average rates so ascertained’, unless the Board viewed the average wage to be ‘unreasonably low’.

(4) This Act, too, was constructed to limit the degree of state intervention—the scheme applied only where women's wages in a particular trade were extremely low relative to other wages (hence its limit to four industries) (Fredman 1997: 76).

(5) From 1891 until 1911, Britain prohibited postnatal employment and according to Koven and Michel (1990: 1105), only in 1911, under the National Insurance Act, were ‘the wives of insured workers and women finally granted a lump sum payment, usually 30 shillings at confinement, to address this hardship. Initially, the benefit was paid to the husband, but after strenuous lobbying by groups including the largely working‐class Women's Cooperative Guild, mothers gained direct control over these funds’. Costs of the maternity benefit were shared by workers, employers, and the state, and it was available to workers earning less than £160 a year.

(6) In this way, Koven and Michel's (1990) assessment of the inverse relationship between the power of women's social action movements and the range and generosity of state welfare benefits for women and children in Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France complements other research on protective legislation by women's labour historians. Particularly complementary are their claims that, on the one hand, ‘the United States, with the most politically powerful and broadly based female reform movements and the weakest state, yielded the least extensive and least generous maternal and child welfare benefits to women’ (and that a similar but weaker pattern prevailed in Britain), while, on the other hand, ‘Germany, with the strongest state,’ yet ‘politically ineffective women's movements offered the most comprehensive programs for women and children’ (1080).

(7) Jenson (1989: 257) argues that French feminists did not pursue suffrage with the same vigour as their American counterparts. The vote was a tool for reform in the United States, ‘whereas in France the left feared female suffrage as a buttress for the church while Solidarists saw it as unnecessary in a society of families whose male head could represent the whole’.

(8) With the primary exception of work by Anderson and Winslow (1951), Lubin and Winslow (1990), Wikander (1992, 1995), Whitworth (1994), Rupp (1997), (p.50) and Bryson (2003), there is a dearth of scholarship documenting international debates pertinent to protective legislation in women's congresses and related forums during the period covered in this subsection. The discussion is therefore influenced greatly by the insights of these scholars, especially Wikander's two investigations (published in English), both the chronology of events they present and their description of debates taking place at different congresses.

(9) According to Rupp (1997: 20), the International Council of Women became a United States‐sponsored organization that primarily included representatives from North America and Western Europe and espoused conservative and Eurocentric views. Led by Lady Aberdeen of Scotland for 40 years, the Council characterized women's ‘first mission’ as ‘her home’.

(10) Indeed, that same year, France and Italy negotiated a workers' protection treaty.